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DJ Speak

DJ Speak

DJ terminology is confusing and technical. Use DJmag's glossary here to learn, understand, and improve your technical know-how.

There are many suppliers that provide package deals including decks, cartridges, a mixer and even PA equipment.

These can offer substantial savings on buying each part separately, and if purchased from a decent shop should be well matched for specific needs.

One of the most important things to remember when looking to buy equipment is to be more concerned about use rather than features.

Look for a mixer that seems solid and practical rather than loaded with features.

If at all possible, try out equipment first.

How solid does it feel? How quickly does the deck get up to speed?

How much pressure does it take to stop the platter rotating (the more the better)?

Do the faders and knobs on the mixer feel solid and reliable? Is the sound crisp and undistorted?

Even on budget equipment these things should be expected.

Probably the biggest single decision is whether to buy direct or belt drive decks.

If affordable try to go for direct drive decks; they usually have higher torque, are more accurate and start-up quicker.

Again, try to test some out - sometimes just adding a small amount on to the budget could end up making a real difference.

Below is a list of DJ terms that are important to know when buying equipment.

DJ GLOSSARY - The Science Bit


Feature on decks that attempts to prevent the needle skating along the record.


Feature, usually on mixers, which calculates and displays the BPM of a tune.Visit or for some decent BPM counters.


Higher quality than standard output, requires special connectors.


Type of turntable where the motor is connected to the platter by a rubber band. This type of deck is generally cheaper, but harder to mix on.Visit or as both manufacturers make competively priced, high quality belt drive decks.


Number of beats per minute. For most music between 50 - 190.


Connects the needle to the tonearm and converts the needle's vibration into an electrical signal.Both Shure and Ortofon make world-class DJ cartridges.


Horizontal fader that changes the volume of two different channels simultaneously - one up, one down. Used to blend or cut from one tune to another.


Can either mean PFL (Pre-Fade Listen) or to have a CD or record ready at the right place for instant playback.


Describes the way the volume changes when a fader is moved on a mixer. Often switchable from sharp to soft, for mixing different styles of music.


The part of the record player that actually touches the vinyl to pick up the sound. Can be either spherical or elliptical in shape.


The motor drives the platter of a deck directly. More expensive, more stable and higher torque (strength).There are many decent direct drive turntable manufacturers, but recently, Technics and Stanton won DJmag's T-Scan award for 'Best Turntable' with their excellent ST-150 deck.


An extra output on a mixer that allows effects to be put on the audio before returning it to the mixer.


Cuts or boosts specific frequencies in the music. For example, a bass or low EQ can reduce or increase the amount of bass.


Similar to kill switches but sweeps through the frequencies. When turning a filter knob the first thing to be heard will usually be bass, then midrange, then treble. 'Resonance' can be added to give a more dramatic effect.


Show which frequencies the equipment can reproduce.


Shows how much power is needed from a mixer to drive headphones. Some inferior mixers may not be able to drive some headphones sufficiently.


The ease of passing an audio signal through a device. The higher this figure, the easier it is to drive it.


Completely remove a certain set of frequencies. For example, they might cut out all bass.


Shows how loud a set of headphones can go.


The part of a record deck that actually touches the vinyl, and converts the changing surface of the record into vibration.


Closed headphones block out more outside sound and have better bass than open headphones, and so are better for DJing.


Allows listening (usually on headphones) to a deck before dropping it into the main mix.


Usually means the speed at which a tune is being played. Can be varied on most decks.


Button on decks that briefly changes the pitch, to help get mixes in. Vestax have this function on their PDX-2300 turntables.


Option on some decks to play record backwards. Also option on scratch mixers to reverse the crossfader (also called Hamster).


Device that records audio into memory for instant triggered playback. Akai make top quality samplers.


Describes whether a set of headphones covers both ears (twin) or just one.


Long arm on the turntable that holds the cartridge. Can be S-shaped or straight for scratching.


The strength of a deck. The higher the torque, the harder it is to stop the platter.

For a full list of DJ equipment manufacturers, check out DJmag's link section.